Photo of Donald Glover found on Hypebeast
Have you gotten the chance to listen to Childish Gambino’s newest album Awaken, My Love yet? It’s whack. I can say that for a fact, but what I’m still unsure of is whether I mean that in a good or bad way.
After releasing two albums, two EPs, and seven mix tapes, all of which combined rap and hip-hop aggressively, Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) mixed things up by releasing a majestic, funk album that I imagine is perfectly suited for an acid trip. Seemingly influenced by formative 70s groups such as Sly and the Family Stone and Funkadelic, the album is full of groovy bass lines, futuristic guitar riffs, shrieks, screams, and soulful melodies. It all combines into a sonically pleasing sound that identifies with the mystique of the heavens. I’ll readily admit I’m not a fan of every track on the album, but a few which have made their way into my Spotify playlists (and really stand out) are “Me and Your Mama”, “California”, and “Redbone”.
While Childish Gambino’s new sound has found a unique appeal to me, those expecting the punchline-filled, fast-flowing rap found on Gambino’s previous projects will be sorely disappointed. With that being said, Glover has always made an effort to push himself artistically and I don’t believe he’s too concerned if that means he faces the possibility of alienating some fans. Gambino’s music has always been a journey full of imagery, and with this album, he seems to have found a new method of delivering both his heart and creativity.
I don’t intend for this post to be another album review, rather I’d like to simply appreciate the artistic independence Donald Glover has been experimenting with for years and the content he’s created from it. The idea of expanding creative outlets is nothing new for Donald Glover. The man is a genius, hilarious, sensitive, self-aware and bold. Long before his career as a musician came to be, Glover found success as an actor, comedian, writer and producer. At the age of 23 he was hired as a writer for NBC’s 30 Rock. He also played a leading role in the NBC sitcom Community for multiple seasons. I first discovered Glover’s music while laughing at his stand-up comedy on Netflix. Recently, Glover has been cast to appear in both the upcoming Han Solo Star Wars movie and in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Additionally, just weeks after releasing Awaken, My Love, the FX series Atlanta which Glover stars in and created won two Golden Globes.
All this to say - Donald Glover simultaneously knows what he’s doing and is constantly exploring himself. Whether Awaken, My Love appeals to you or not, it’s undeniable that the man has an impressive track record. Personally, I’m a fan of the album. In a genre-blending era, Childish Gambino has done an excellent job of producing an entirely unique sound for himself. It’s intricate, shifting, and bold. So often an artist finds a sound that sells and rarely has the nerve to tamper with it. Not so with Glover and I think his past successes indicate the more he expands his horizons, the better. I have no idea what Childish Gambino’s next album will sound like, but I do know that as long as he continues to explore artistically I’ll be watching and listening closely. It’s deserved.